Defense News reports on the activities of the eight Freedom class Littoral Combat Ships based in Mayport during the year since recognition of their combining gear problem. (LCS-5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, and 19. LCS-1 and 3 are in San Diego.)
All their deployments have been with Forth Fleet, primarily doing drug interdiction with a Coast Guard LEDET aboard.
“But, the squadron commodore said, the formation also has seen its greatest operational achievements during that same time, conducting seven successful deployments to U.S. 4th Fleet that took hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of drugs off the market, interrupted trafficking networks across SOUTHCOM, supported partners throughout Central and South America and pushed back against excessive maritime claims.”
The report provides some insights in the nature of the class problems. The problems were not limited to when both turbines and diesels were operating together, to achieve maximum speed.
they are forbidden from operating in two modes to achieve top speeds — operating both the gas turbine and the diesel engine for full power, and using the diesel engine in “boost mode”
It appears the clutches for the diesel engines were not up to the torque those engines provided and this has meant that the ships are using turbines for cruise speeds that the diesels would have been expected to provide.
What we found out then later after that was, when Detroit had the failure, is that it was more than just that combined mode; it was actually the torque on that clutch when the diesel engine was operating under the higher loads, causing the same degradation and failure,”
This has impacted their already short range.
“…diesel engine is your most economical mode, so you just have to watch the operational employment of the ship more to make sure that you’re managing your fuel consumption” as the ships relied less on the diesel engine and more on the gas turbine.”
These ships continue to have reliability problems.
Defense News reported in June the LCS Strike Team, alongside the newly established LCS Task Force, had identified 32 reliability problems and were focused on five for the Freedom-variant ships. In addition to the combining gear, that list included issues related to the diesel generator rigid mount, fuel lines, water jets and boat davits.
That means they are being kept on a short leash. That is to some extent good news for 4th Fleet and the drug enforcement effort, since they are still not ready to be deployed to Bahrain.
On the other hand, that means PATFORSWA is to some extent covering missions that the LCSs should be doing.
I am not sure it’s true, but it seems the LCS are not as effective as cutters in drug enforcement. It would be interesting to do a study of that. To determine if it is true, and if so, why.
Another impression is that while we have deployed HITRON helicopters on foreign vessels engaged in drug enforcement, the LCSs use only Navy helicopters.
The LCS-1 variants are years away from being fully functional and without operating restrictions. A new OPC may be in service by then?
But more importantly the LCS were not built for CG missions and require specialized training and support to operate. I see no need for the USCG to start a new program for the LCS